Kathreyn Harris

former wife of SSG Shilo Harris, US Army, Ret.

Kathreyn Harris has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Services and Development. Prior to her role as a caregiver, she had a career with the US Department of Agriculture in Canton, NY. In 2007, after Shilo was wounded when his vehicle ran over an IED in Iraq, she left her job to focus on his treatment and recovery. In 2016, Kathreyn and Shilo divorced. She and the children now live in their own place. Despite having a Master’s in Management, the lack of consistent employment during her caregiver years made it difficult to find work. After many tough months, she started a new career as a mortgage loan officer. Kathreyn, who describes herself as a tough “Texas Girl,” gets her strength from her strong faith, and the love of her two children.

Ashley Toppin

wife of SPC Andy Toppin, US Army, Ret.

In 2009, Ashley was planning to go to college to study early childhood education, when her husband, Andy, suffered extensive burns and damage to his legs in Iraq. His injuries were so severe, Ashley was flown to Germany to say her final goodbye. Fortunately, he survived. One leg was amputated, the other leg requires a special brace. Though she was only nineteen, Ashley not only had to grapple with the details of being a caregiver, but also with the realities of being a new mother. For many years, school was put on hold, though today, she has her Associate’s Degree. Ashley would like to continue her education to become a physical therapist, with the hopes of being able to help her husband more with his recovery. Together they raise their three children, Addison, Christian, and their youngest, Evangeline.

 

Kelly Stephenson

wife of SSG Scott Stephenson, US Army, Ret.

Before she met Scott, Kelly was a liquor store manager and a freelance portrait photographer. Unlike the other caregivers, Kelly met and married her husband after he was already injured. For two years, she focused solely on being a wife and caregiver to Scott, which necessitated that she quit her job and close her business.  Even though Scott’s disabilities require 24/7 assistance, the VA has compensated Kelly with the lowest allowance tier for caregivers - $500 a month. The VA also denied the installation of a stair lift for her husband, and his frequent falls are a source of anxiety. The shortfall of funds to meet basic living expenses has necessitated her return to work at the liquor store, as well as getting her photography business going again. Kelly says her struggle now is finding balance as she juggles two jobs, caregiving, and being a wife and mother to two teenage boys --one hers, the other Scott’s. She is grateful that her blended family gets along well, and that Scott is adept on the computer and helps with her photography business.

Gina Hill

wife of SSG Allen Hill, US Army, Ret.

Gina was an elementary and a middle school teacher before leaving to take care of their youngest son (now 14). In 2007, when their son was almost four, Allen was injured in Iraq when his humvee hit an IED. Gina, already a stay-at-home mom, was then thrust into a different type of caregiving: Administering to her husband’s severe emotional wounds 24/7. The biggest challenge was the planning it took to do ‘normal’ things, such as going to church, or to a restaurant. In the early days, having to develop a ‘plan B’ in case things didn’t work out was very stressful. Often, it led to a feeling of isolation, ‘as though you’re in a room full of people, but you’re all alone.’ Today, the Hill’s are in a much better spot. Gina works for a veteran service organization whose primary focus is finding resources for veterans who are homeless. Allen helps with one of the projects, building a tiny house village for the homeless vets. This involvement has been very helpful for both of them. Gina credits her faith, and her close family relations (especially her sister) for giving her strength.

 

Linzi Andersen

wife of CPT Micah Andersen, US Army, Ret.

Linzi has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Boise State University, and worked as a marketing and communications coordinator. After she married Micah, they were posted to Ft Benning and then Ft Bliss. Linzi’s role as a caregiver started the day Micah lost both legs in Iraq, and suffered other serious injuries as a result of an IED. With one-month baby Jay in tow, she moved again to San Antonio, Texas to be near Micah while he was a patient at Brooke Army Medical Center. Micah’s medical care has included 80 operations, procedures, and fights with deadly fungal infections. The separation from their families in Idaho has been difficult, often leaving her without family or extra help as she balances being both a caregiver and a mother. She and Micah welcomed baby Ezra to their family in July, 2016. For the past two years, Linzi has volunteered on the marketing team for the nonprofit Girls on the Run in San Antonio. They both look forward to moving back to Idaho once Micah retires. Linzi hopes to resume her career and find a job flexible to her situation as a caregiver.

Luana Schneider

mother of SSG Scott Stephenson, US Army, Ret.

Luana was an interior decorator and artist when her son Scott was severely injured in 2006. Scott sustained catastrophic wounds when his Humvee hit an IED while deployed to Iraq. Luana moved to be with him for two years at Brooke Army Medical Center, leaving her husband and other children at home in Kansas. In between visiting hours at the hospital Luana attempted to remotely run her business out of her hotel room. She fought for Scott to receive a prosthetic leg after they were told he would never be able to receive one due to the severity of his burns. Luana was Scott’s advocate between the military and the VA, ensuring he would receive the highest rating for medical retirement and an easier transition to the VA health system. After their return to Kansas, she started a non-profit to continuing educating the public about our country’s most severely injured, which she continues to run today. Luana has restarted her career as an artist and works part time for a mental health facility.